17 August 2015

Chemical Brothers - Born In The Echoes

I am ready for this now, been sitting on looking at this album for a few weeks and waiting for the moment when I could look at the dispassionately.  The main reason is that Chemical Brothers can sometimes go against my musical leanings, at the time of writing I have been more in a mood for some harsh minimal punk (Sleaford Mods), creative collaborations (FFS), some old school jazz (John Coltrane) and the new sound of a metal legend (Iron Maiden).  So to review some new electronica when in that frame of mind could have been a bad movie, it could have been great; but Chemical Brothers have always been a bit of a strange band for me.  When they started out under the Dust Brothers name (something they would lose due to another group from America who owed the name from the 1980's) they were interesting, they have obviously gained a lot of success with number one albums and song, toured the world and been one of the hottest name to come out of the dance scene in the UK ever.  So when I say that sometimes I drift from them as I can zone out, I feel like it is a slight disservice is a strange way.  But I would rather be honest at the beginning, so that when I get to the end and give a verdict it will make sense to people.  So let us see if this album is any good....

The album starts with the first single to be released off the album; it is called "Sometimes I Feel So Deserted" and it starts off with a gentle sinking tone into a sound the comes in quietly but with a steady build and it builds some more, then some more, then some more, you think it has stopped.....no it is still going.  Then the catch line comes in which is an interpolation of a song called “Brighter Days" that was recorded by Big Moses featuring Kenny Bobien.  This song has re-recorded vocals by Daniel Pearce and the loop is a message of holding as something is on the way, around you beats and frequencies are being dropped like bombs and it is all swirling towards that building moment when everything is up for a release - and they go quite and back to the basic kick and siren.  Electronica emotional teasing at its best as they start it all over again, they know not to give that moment away cheaply but it almost made me snap when they took it down to the basics; however I cannot deny it is a brilliant opening song....the bastards.  The second song (which was also the second single) is called "Go" and features the talents of Q-Tip, this is much more chart friendly if I am honest and has that big beat feeling that has made them so famous throughout the world.  It is a good number, but it does not grab my attention as instantly as "Sometimes I Feel So Deserted".  The opening starts well, but the chorus just feels a bit weak in comparison to the verses and it just ends up being average.  I feel there is a pattern to the single being released off this album as the third track is also the third single, but that is beside the point - this song is called "Under Neon Lights" and features the very popular (for good reason) and uber-talented St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark).  This is another dark, high drama club anthem which starts with a sound akin to rain hitting concrete, it then goes into a very old school house tune which now sounds fresh again.  St. Vincent is as charming as ever (seriously, that lady nails this track – also anyone who does a track with Swans is good with me), pining the track together perfectly and matching that dark club vibe of the number.  Now for the first track off the album which has not been released as a single (at the time of writing) – EML Ritual.  This song features Ali Love supplying vocals to the song, it is another dark number and once again it is very reminiscent of the 90’s dance scene than the electronica of the early years of 2000.  I think the best word to describe it is interest, it is something that I have been going each way with – sometimes I love it and sometimes it just passes me by – but it is the track I have come back to the most, just to see if I have been missing anything.  It is not the track of the album at the moment, but it probably will be in a few years’ time.

“I’ll See You There” is a track that could be the twin to “Setting Sun” from 1996 which featured Noel Gallagher, it is all psychedelic tuning and strange noises mixed in with off kilter drumming.  This sound has been made popular again in recent years by Amorphous Androgynous (aka Future Sounds of London), but the Chemical Brothers were always the first to bring it to the attention of the greater masses of the general public.  This song is very black and white – it will either be loved or hated and for the record I find it a blast.  Like a strange jam from a 60’s hippy show, it just goes a little crazy and underneath you have this pulsing rhythm to make the world a more strange place; one of the best track from these guys. “Just Bang” is another retrospective sounding number, it feels as if they have went into the past for their inspiration this time and they have not fell for the trap of making it sound like a carbon copy of the past or ripped it off either.  It is just a dark rave number that is designed to get the crowd moving and does not any other agenda apart from that – it is very impressive from an outsider’s point of view.  “Reflexion” comes hot on the heels, it is more big beat/house music that has a drifting approach to tone and sequencing.  It is a very long track which takes its time to build up and fade, it always feels like it is going to build up to more; but it just seems to reach a point and then goes back to the twisting signature loop, it feels just a little bit empty for me and too soulless.

After this is “Taste of Honey” which feels out of place with the record; it is incredibly dark and claustrophobic, there is more of Nine Inch Nails in this number than anything else, and it is very reminisce of ‘The Fragile’ era and has a slow groove as well.  My only complaint this time is the opposite or “Reflexion” – it is too damn short.  Cate Le Bon is the featured artist on the ninth track with is called “Born in the Echoes”; this is a strange number if truth be told, the vocals are very distant and dream-like, the funky bass and drum combo feels a little at odds with the loops and frequency beats – but just like some Hollywood stars that should not look beautiful if every little thing was look at individually, it is just a slowly pulsing tune of joy.  It reminds me of a track by the band Juicifer called “Amplifier” which has a similar bass line (not the same, but it does remind me of it – it is quite possibly one of the most interesting songs I have heard from them, it is just something that you can have on a loop and it does not get boring.  The penultimate track is called “Radiate” and was co-written with Colin Stetson who has performed with Arcade Fire, Bon Iver and other artists.  It is a gentle opening track, faint electronic noises start this song with a broken up vocals thrown in the mix.  It feels like it could be the start to something massive that it is going to build into a house anthem; it almost gets there, but it goes down a neo-noise route to a certain level and I found that both annoying and brilliant at the same time.  The song is not just another dance number, it could actually be from a Sigur Rós album and that is something I will always have time for.   I can just imagine some dance fans that will hate this, my answer to them (and I guess it is also the band’s answer as well) – get with the program.  Featuring the talent of Beck, “Wide Open” brings this album to a close; with a more chill out vibe for the more part than massive house sound, it fits the melodic vocals of Beck perfectly.  It has that build once more that is needed to make an anthem which can define an album.  I think they have left their best two shots till the end of this record and it ends on a high note.

I have to say I am pleasantly surprised on this record, it has an old school themed record which is neither a tribute nor is it backwards looking; it is not trying to recreate the past, but it is giving it look over that makes it sound new and modern.  Also, it has a few curve balls along the way such as “Radiate” and “Taste of Honey”, but this is better than an album with is just club fillers – it is showing there is more to the band (which is not really that much of a surprise as well).  The guests were for the most part effective, sometimes they can take away but much like the Prodigy they make sure that they work for the song.  The few tracks which did not work for me were not bad, but not to my taste but these are small points.  It might not make me a paid up fan of The Chemical Brothers, but I can totally appreciate that this album will be one of the records that will be on people’s albums of the year list.

7.5 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

Top track – Wide Open (Featuring Beck)

You can purchase the album on Amazon here

You can visit the Chemical Brothers website here

You can also follow their activities on Facebook here

You can stream the album on Spotify here

You can stream the album on Deezer here

You can stream the album on Tidal here

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